Dr. Fix It: Saints Offense
The New Orleans Saints are in a weird place in their franchise's history. They are in transition, this is the second season without future first ballot, hall of fame quarterback, Drew Brees. This is the first season without future first ballot, hall of fame head coach, Sean Payton. Normally when a franchise has to replace the two most important people in its history, its time to rebuild.
The Saints are not about that rebuild life. Rebuild!? What's that? So they moved forward with Jameis Winston and Dennis Allen in place of Drew Brees and Sean Payton. They are both very different than their predecessors. Winston is a gun-slinger with a cannon for an arm as Brees was very precise and didn't have great arm strength towards the end of his career. Allen is a defensive mastermind who didn't have much success in his previous opportunity as a head coach compared to Payton, an offensive genius who had very few bad seasons as a head coach.
Even with all of the changes going on, the Saints still have a great roster, full of talent. The defense has been excellent so far this season. The Atlanta Falcons gave them a great test in week one as they were able to run the ball with lots of success against a normally very tough run defense. Then against Tampa Bay in week two, the Saints held the Bucs to 190 passing yards and held their leading rusher, Leonard Fournette to 64 yards on 24 carries. Then in week three, the defense was giving the Panthers offense all types of issues as they gained a total of 293 yards. The difference in the game was the points Carolina was able to generate off of the Saints turnovers.
Starting the season with one win and two losses was definitely not part of the plan. It's clearly been the offensive side of the ball that is slacking. So how do the Saints fix the issues with the offense?
Step 1: Put the Offensive Line In The Best Position to Succeed
The Saints have played against two very good maybe great defenses when they faced Tampa Bay and Carolina. So that is definitely part of the struggles the offensive line has had but it still does not excuse the lack of protection for Winston and lack of holes at times for the running backs. Part of the solution could be play calling. If the Saints run more spread out formations, it will be harder for defenses to send more than the Saints can block.
Like with this look here, the defense would have to respect the four wide receiver look, which would put less bodies in the box for the offensive line work against. This could definitely help out the offensive line by making it easier to open running lanes. This can help Winston as well, where if more plays are run like this then the Saints can run RPO (run-pass option) plays out of this look which will get the ball of Winston's hands faster, which in turn helps the offensive line.
Jameis Winston has been sacked 11 times so far this season, that is the fourth most in the NFL only behind, Joe Burrow, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan. More plays out of spread like formations will help the offensive line by forcing the defense to have less players in the box to rush and it will also make the defense easier to read for Winston.
Step 2: Hold on to the Damn Ball!!
The New Orleans Saints have the most turnovers in the NFL through three weeks with nine. Five of those are interceptions thrown by Winston. Not all interceptions are created equal and a lot of quarterbacks will get some grace on that but not Winston with his infamous history with turnovers. The first one against Tampa Bay was a deep throw to Chris Olave where Olave was behind the defense but Winston under threw the pass. That will happen from time to time. The second one was a deep out route to Juwan Johnson where Winston missed Johnson high and the ball sailed to a Bucs defender. The third interception against Tampa Bay was in desperation time and Winston was fooled by the defense and didn't see a defender sitting in a zone. For his interceptions against Carolina, the first was tipped at the line of scrimmage by a blitzing cornerback, maybe Winston should of just took the sack there and for this fifth one of the year, it was a desperate throw down the field as the Saints needed lots of yards in very little time.
I explained the interceptions to give some context. When fans hear five interceptions in the last two games from Winston, the talk automatically goes to, "Welp, Jameis will be Jameis." When if Jameis is properly protected and given options to get the ball out quickly, the interceptions will decrease like they did to start last season.
The other four turnovers were on fumbles, two by Mark Ingram which either led to points or killed a drive where the Saints were going at least get three points. One by Alvin Kamara that was scooped up by Carolina and ran into the end zone. The other by was by Olave late in the Bucs game, where he hit the ground before being touched and the impact with the ground caused the fumble. Kamara has been historically very good at not fumbling the football, he has had eight fumbles in his career so far and four of those came in 2019. So Who Dat nation should be not too concerned about this becoming an issue for Kamara. Ingram is a veteran who should also be able to hold on to the ball pretty well for the rest of the season, he has averaged less than two fumbles a season for his career.
The turnovers have been a major issue but can be fixed easily by scheme and focus on holding on to the football.
Step 3: Get as Healthy as Possible
Every team in the NFL is dealing with injuries and the Saints are no exception. Winston is playing with a bad back, Kamara with a rib injury, Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry both missed time in the Carolina game with lower leg issues. If these players are able to give their best while dealing with these injuries, the Saints offense will turn around.
There is too much talent on this offense for solutions to not be found. If you are a Saints fan, reading this article, just breath, the offense will find its way soon.